July 12th, 2010
11:10 AM ET

Beginner's Guide to Travel Hacking

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

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Greetings from Ouagoudougou, winner of the “most awesome city name” contest and also my current stop on the week-long West Africa tour. I came in via Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc, and Ethiopian Airlines... but more on that in a moment.

I wanted to write a lengthy post outlining a few principles of what I call travel hacking. In short, travel hacking is all about seeing experiencing the world on a limited budget. I've been able to visit so many countries over the past decade, not by being independently wealthy, but by learning to be creative.

This leads to an odd, hybrid travel world—I fly Lufthansa First Class to Frankfurt, where the departure lounge includes bathtubs, a complimentary restaurant and wine bar, and planeside transfer via chauffeured Mercedes. Nice. Then I head off to a series of Economy Class flights throughout West Africa, also known as the traveling circus. (In the case of Morocco's national airline, on which I took three flights last week, I dubbed it Cirque du Maroc.”)

Thankfully, I live in America and fly Economy Class on United once in a while, so I'm accustomed to third-world airlines where everyone applauds upon a safe landing.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
July 5th, 2010
11:38 AM ET

The 'Unconventional Book Tour' raises funds for Ethiopia

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

Announcing the Unconventional Book Tour

Sixty-four days from today, my first print book hits the stands all across North America. As a result, I'll be traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada to meet readers and raise funds for our Charity: Water campaign to provide clean water in rural Ethiopia.

->Read the details and sign up to come out here


The book is currently on pre-order for a whopping $10.08 over at Amazon. It tells my story and outlines a road map for your own world domination plans. I've been fortunate to get some kind reviews from other authors, and I know that a lot of people will love it. (Since it's fairly provocative, some people won't love it, but that's okay, too.)

Every State, Every Province... Crazy or Epic?

Because I like big goals, I decided to visit all 50 states from September through December to promote the book. That includes Alaska and Hawaii, of course, and the District of Columbia. And, since I couldn't decide between a couple of hard choices (Dallas vs. Houston, San Fran vs. L.A.), I threw them both in. Then, I didn't want to forget my friends north of the border, so I added all 10 provinces in Canada for an extra leg in January 2011.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau
June 30th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

How to File a Freedom of Information Act Request for Your Travel History

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

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Early this morning I sent out an envelope containing an official Freedom of Information Act Request to the U.S. government.

Am I a conspiracy theorist? Have I started stockpiling canned food and building a bomb shelter behind my apartment?

Sorry to disappoint anyone holed up in a cabin somewhere, but not really. I refuse to visit any bomb shelter that doesn’t provide wifi and a french press. In this case, I’m mostly just curious… what do the feds know about me?


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
June 23rd, 2010
02:47 PM ET

Tips for stress-free travel

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/23/chris_blog_web.jpg caption="(c)CHRISCB PHOTOGRAPHIE"]

Greetings from an edgy and interesting Bangkok, Thailand. I've set up camp in the Silom area and have been having fun working, writing, wandering, and talking with people.

Last week I took my inaugural journey on Air Niugini Airways, flying on the Manila-Port Moresby night flight, and then later over to Singapore on my circle of the region. I don't think they'll be joining the OneWorld alliance anytime soon, but it wasn't that bad either.


The title of this post is somewhat of a misnomer: I almost never experience travel that is truly stress-free. For starters, not all travel can or should be predictable. Sometimes the unexpected is better than the planned.

Secondly, not all stress is bad, because some of the most challenging times in our lives are the most stressful. No risk, no glory—that kind of thing.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
June 17th, 2010
09:45 AM ET

Transitions: change is the constant, and things are going to be different from now on

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor


Do you ever have the feeling that you’re leaving somewhere to which you’ll never return? You’ve been coasting along in the present, then all of a sudden—the future! Is here! There’s no going back, no matter how much you want to.

You walk out of the apartment and shut the door for the last time. You leave the university campus after years of study. You change jobs and say farewell to the workspace.

That place was so important to you, but now it’s no longer part of your life.

If you ever do go back, it’s never the same. You might feel like a conquering warrior (“I remember when I first arrived here, and look at me now!”) You might feel sad or regretful (“I wish I had…”), or you might have only good memories. Either way, change is the constant, and things are going to be different from now on.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau
June 8th, 2010
11:36 AM ET

The final 50: My journey to every country on the planet

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/TRAVEL/06/08/airline.satisfaction.study/c1main.plane.sky.afp.gi.jpg caption="Greetings from Terminal 1 in Singapore’s Changi Airport—or perhaps HKG, or NRT, or en route to LAX depending on when you read this. I’m on the way home from my latest global adventure." width=300 height=169]

The Final Fifty

Greetings from Terminal 1 in Singapore’s Changi Airport—or perhaps HKG, or NRT, or en route to LAX depending on when you read this. I’m on the way home from my latest global adventure.

A long time ago—five years, to be precise—I had an idea to visit every country in the world. I like travel, I like big goals. Smash the two together and you get: 192 official countries, plus a bunch of other places.

So I started working toward it, around the same time I started publishing this online journal that people from almost as many countries are now reading.

I set the deadline of April 2013 to coincide with my 35th birthday. I’m 32 now, so we’ve come to the final three years. This year I had an extra challenge—from September-December I’ll be based entirely in the U.S. due to the upcoming Unconventional Book Tour. No international travel for four months! Yikes. I knew I had to work hard to get ahead during the first half of the year.

While hopping around the world over the past two weeks, I did a personal check-in on the progress. Am I on track? Am I in trouble?

The verdict: it looks like I’m doing OK. I’m not tremendously far ahead of schedule, but I’m not far behind either. 144 countries down, less than 50 (technically 48) countries remain… a few easy ones, a bunch of hard ones, and another big group in the middle. Here’s what they look like.


Filed under: Beyond 360 • Chris Guillebeau
May 18th, 2010
10:50 AM ET

Starting With What You Have

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

A couple weeks ago I went to Powell’s and heard J.D. Roth talk about taking personal responsibility over your financial life. “No one will ever care about your money as much as you do,” he said.

Very true. And you can say the same about your career, your dreams, your goals, and pretty much anything else that is personal and important. When we stop waiting for someone else to come along and make something happen for us, everything moves a lot quicker.

The reasons we fail to begin are frequently cited as: time, money, or something else external. The reasons we actually fail to begin are often: fear, inertia, or something else internal.

It’s socially acceptable to blame our indecisiveness on a lack of resources. Everyone understands when you say you’re waiting for a change in situation before beginning. But in fact, it’s relatively easy to deal with the lack of resources. What’s harder is taking the first, critical steps toward overcoming the internal obstacles.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Beyond 360 • Chris Guillebeau
May 14th, 2010
06:35 PM ET

Your backup plan is your plan

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

My favorite part of reading case studies and interviewing entrepreneurs over the past couple of months has been hearing a number of stories with a recurring theme. In dozens of variations, the stories usually sound like this:

"I was down to my last $400 and simply had to make it work…"

"I gave up the option to take a reduced role at my job and just went full-tilt…"

"I didn’t know what I was doing, but I finally overcame everything I was stalling on and just started …"

Refusing the backup plan is a key theme of many successful entrepreneurs and other heroes. A good backup plan creates safety, security and a fall-back option—things you don’t want when you’re trying to change the world.

Will Smith put it like this: "Your Plan B interferes with Plan A." I like that. Why not stick with Plan A?

The Pilot, The Plan

Turning down the safe advice ("be careful, take your time," etc.) makes some people uncomfortable.
When you proceed full-on with no backup, you might encounter questions or supposedly unassailable examples of why backup plans are necessary.

You’ll hear something like "Airplane pilots always have a Plan B," as if it’s an open-and-shut case that you’re wrong to chart a course without considering the contingencies. And when you are presented with such logic, you are expected to say: "Oh, you’re right! It really is better to play it safe. Gosh."

But hold on a minute. Personally, I want my pilot to safely land the damn plane. Assuming that’s Plan A, I’m happy to stick with it. Anything else doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

We can change our tactics and maybe even our strategy, but let’s not change the goal. The goal is: be awesome. Change the world. Win. In short: Your backup plan is your plan.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that change is a scary thing, and I don’t think prudence is inherently bad. If you need to proceed with caution, proceed away.

But I also know that sometimes the fail-safe plan gives us a safe way out of what we really need to do. It holds us back from greatness. And if there’s anything we don’t want when attempting something truly important, it’s that. Full speed ahead!

So how about you over there… what’s your plan?

Editor’s Note: Chris Guillebeau is a writer and world traveler. He publishes the Art of Nonconformity blog at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisguillebeau.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Beyond 360 • Chris Guillebeau
February 24th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Life in Sudan: Interview with an aid worker

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Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

Christine (not her real name) is from the U.S. and works in the international development field for a charity that operates throughout Sudan. She has spent more than a year in the country thus far, and recently signed on for another commitment of indefinite length.

Because she is engaged in sensitive work and serves in Sudan at the permission of the government, we mutually decided to post this as an anonymous interview. All answers are her own.

Let’s get started.

* I know it’s probably hard to summarize what’s happening in the Sudan, but can you try?

This is a difficult question to answer. For years the media has simplistically portrayed two conflicts in Sudan: the Darfur conflict pitting government support “Arab” tribes against “African” tribes and the civil war between the Muslim North and the Christian South. I’ll start with Darfur. First, the “Arab” and “African” labels are somewhat arbitrary. The various tribes have been living together and intermarrying for centuries.

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Second, the level of violence is nowhere near what it was a few years ago during what some have labeled the “genocide.” New arrivals to Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps are fleeing low-intensity conflicts. For the most part, these are no longer just janjaweed/rebel conflicts. Often, they may be arab/arab, rebel/rebel, nomad/pastoralist, etc. While people are no longer dying in massive numbers, over 200,000 people are still displaced due to insecurity.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Chris Guillebeau
February 17th, 2010
11:59 PM ET

Before and after

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

In 2004 I went to Liberia for the first of five visits. It was a pretty crazy place at the time, having just ended a 14-year series of civil wars a few months before I arrived with a small assessment team. The streets were patrolled by U.N. tanks, the only electricity was provided by private generators, and the non-functioning lampposts were covered in bullet holes.

While surveying villages outside of the capital Monrovia, we found this site where villagers obtained their drinking water.

I drink the tap water almost everywhere I go — but you can be sure I brought my own $3 bottle of water with me that day. No one builds up an immunity to a water source like that.


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